Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teens take to microphone to address state fair misbehavior

TAMPA — Sarah Taylor was at the Florida State Fair on Feb. 7, which was a "student day." While she was there, she got into an argument with some teenagers.

As the sun went down and teens started running wild, she got separated from her friends. She was then surrounded by a group of people who started attacking her.

"I got hit with an umbrella, a baton, some feet, some fists," Taylor said. "I don't know what the rest was."

Taylor, a senior at Middleton High School, suffered damage to her nose that might require surgery, and she said she still has blurry vision. She and her mother joined about 150 other people Thursday night at an NAACP meeting at Ambassadors of Christ Inc. Temple of Prayer to discuss ways to curb annual outbursts of mayhem on Hillsborough County's student day at the fair.

Taylor's mother, Sonnita Tubbins, said authorities need to exercise better security at next year's fair — or get rid of student day, in which kids are given free tickets and the day off from school. "She never would have went to that fair if she hadn't had that free ticket," Tubbins said.

Thursday's get-together was one of several planned discussions about the first Friday of this year's fair, in which, deputies said, hundreds of teenagers fought, ran wild and caused chaos. This meeting, the second, emphasized hearing from children and teens.

They were asked to speak at the start of the meeting and to answer two questions: What were the problems at this year's fair, and what did they think was the solution?

Latasha Washington, a student at Jefferson High School, said she was at this year's fair and was scared when fights started to break out near her. "I had to grab my nephew and start running as fast as I could," she said.

Wildens Cajuste, a senior at Steinbrenner High School, said the answer could be more police officers or more family present at the fair. But he stopped short of saying that student day should be canceled.

"Student day at the fair has been going on before I was even born. … It's been going on since my brothers and big sisters, they're all at college now," Cajuste said. "It's been going on forever."

Later, adults weighed in as well. Some said parents need to be more aware of their children's lives. Others said there needed to be a larger police presence. One suggestion was to create a "safe house" where children could call their parents if other teenagers started acting up.

Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, who spoke at the meeting, said policies can be discussed, but his goal is to not have to eject some teenagers and arrest others. "I don't want to arrest kids because when we arrest them, we create a record which, even as a minor thing, it causes you a world of problems," he said.

Florida State Fair Authority executive director Charles Pesano said the fair's goal is to be a family-friendly event. Its planners will continue to work with the Sheriff's Office and the Hillsborough County School Board on strategies to avoid chaos, he said.

"It hurts us inside, and I say that truthfully, when things don't go well," Pesano said.

Teens take to microphone to address state fair misbehavior 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.